What to Expect After Cataract Surgery
Most people can see much better after cataract surgery. The procedure helps fix problems like blurry vision, glare, and sensitivity to light. However, these effects won’t be immediate. Your cataract surgery recovery includes time for your eye to heal and adjust.
Here is what you can expect in the first few days, weeks and months after surgery:
You will go home from surgery with a patch over your eye. You may need to keep this on for a few days. You also may need to cover your eye while you sleep to protect it until it heals.
Most people don’t have to stay overnight in the hospital after cataract surgery. Your doctor will probably keep you for about an hour to watch for possible problems, such as:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Increased eye pressure
- Retinal detachment
These complications are rare. But, if they develop, they need to be treated as soon as possible.
You cannot drive yourself home after surgery. Make plans ahead of time to have someone pick you up. You also may need help for a few days at home and to get around. Your doctor may advise you to avoid any strenuous activities that can put extra pressure on your eye. For instance, no bending or lifting objects that weigh more than 25 pounds.
Your eye may itch or hurt a bit for a day or two after surgery. Your vision may still be blurry. This is normal. You might also have other symptoms, such as:
- Fluid discharge
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to touch
Don’t rub or press on your eye after surgery — even if it’s itchy or uncomfortable.
Your doctor probably will prescribe eye drops for you to use after surgery. Put them in exactly as directed. They will help your eye heal. It’s also important to keep your eye clean and dry. If water, dirt or dust gets into it, you could get an infection.
You may also need to wear special sunglasses when you go outside during the day.
Mild discomfort and itchiness should start to fade in a few days. Your vision will start to improve. Keep in mind that things may still look blurry for up to a few weeks after cataract surgery.
Be sure to call your doctor right away if your pain or vision gets worse. Also call if:
- Your eye gets more red.
- You see light flashes or new spots (floaters).
- You are nauseous or vomit.
- You develop a cough that won't go away.
After a few days, you should be able to go back to your normal daily routine and activities. Still, don't drive or participate in strenuous activities or sports until your doctor tells you it’s safe to do so.
Overall, the healing process takes about eight weeks. During this time, your doctor will check your vision and keep track of your progress. You'll have follow-up visits with your surgeon for up to six months.
Once your eye has healed, your doctor will determine if you need glasses or contacts to see properly. Some people no longer need corrective glasses or contacts. Others may get a new prescription to help them see better for certain activities, like reading, knitting or driving.
If you need cataract surgery on your other eye, your doctor will begin talking to you about scheduling this second procedure.
Besides seeing better, your quality of life also should improve after cataract surgery. Normal daily activities like reading and driving should be easier and more enjoyable. Having better vision also makes it less likely that you will fall and get hurt.
Some people develop blurry vision after cataract surgery months or years later. It might feel like their cataract has returned. This is called a "secondary cataract" or an "after-cataract." It occurs when the covering that supports the artificial lens gets cloudy because of cell growth.
There is no way to predict who will get a secondary cataract. About half of people who have cataract surgery develop the condition. The good news is that your surgeon can easily treat secondary cataract.
Surgeons use a laser to make a tiny hole in the center of the cloudy capsule. This lets light pass through the lens properly. That restores your vision. The procedure is painless. It's called a YAG laser capsulotomy. It can be done in the surgeon's doctor’s office in about five minutes. Your doctor may give you eye drops and monitor you for about an hour afterwards. Sometimes it takes a few days for vision to improve. But, most people see better right away.